Limitation periods in the United Kingdom

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In the United Kingdom, there are time limits after which court actions cannot be taken in certain types of cases. These differ across the three legal systems in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom is almost unique in the world in that it has no statute of limitations for any criminal offence tried above magistrate level.[1]

Civil claims[edit]

The key legislation relating to civil claims in England and Wales is the Limitation Act 1980, which lists the time to various types of cases.

Debts[edit]

If a lender allows six years to pass without receiving any payment, an action for recovery may become statute-barred.[2]

Injury litigation[edit]

The general time limit for injury litigation is three years, with multiple exceptions and special cases. The statute of limitations for injuries to children only starts at the eighteenth birthday. The statute of limitations for brain damage begins only when the victim has been medically acknowledged as regaining cognitive ability. The Montreal Convention (1999) and the Athens Convention (1974) govern the statute of limitations for compensation for injuries on an airplane or while at sea, respectively.[3]

Libel[edit]

The limitation period for libel, slander, slander of title, slander of goods or other malicious falsehood is one year.[4]

Criminal matters[edit]

Magistrates' courts[edit]

In relation to criminal matters, Section 127 of the Magistrates Court Act 1980 [5] states that normally:

a magistrates’ court shall not try an information or hear a complaint unless the information was laid, or the complaint made, within 6 months from the time when the offence was committed, or the matter of complaint arose.
'information is laid for the purposes of section 127 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 when it is received at the office of the clerk to the justices for the relevant area'. It is not necessary for the information to be personally received by a justice of the peace or by the clerk of the justices.

Higher courts[edit]

Unlike other European countries, the United Kingdom has no statute of limitations for any criminal offence. Following a number of acquittals and wrongful convictions of people charged with serious sexual crimes alleged to have been committed several decades prior, there has been some debate as to whether there should be a statute of limitations for historical rape and sexual assault cases, as prosecutions rely solely on personal testimonies and have no physical or scientific evidence due to the passage of time.[6]

Road Traffic Offenders Act[edit]

Section 1 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988[7] requires a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) to be served within 14 days of applicable offences being committed; if that does not occur, it may follow that any further action may be prevented. However, there are exceptions to the 14 day rule: if the alleged offence was committed in a company car or the car was not being driven by the registered keeper of the vehicle are all examples of exception to that day to allow the police to make appropriate investigations. The date of the offence is excluded.

The onus is on the body issuing the Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) to ensure the Notice is served within 14 days. The definition of "served" has changed. Prior to 1994, NIPs were served by registered or recorded post, but in 1994, the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 was amended to allow for standard postal delivery. Several successful defences to a NIP have been conducted on the production of the envelope that contained the NIP in which the postmark on the envelope indicated to a court that the NIP could not have been received (served) within the 14 day limit.

Representation of the People Act[edit]

Section 176 of the Representation of the People Act 1986,[8] requires that proceedings for any offence within the act begin within one year of the offence being committed.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "What is the statute of limitations on sexual assault? - Lawtons". Lawtons Solicitors (UK). Retrieved 2018-08-06.
  2. ^ IHTM28384 - Law relating to debts: statute-barred debts, HMRC Manual
  3. ^ "uk Statute of Limitations".
  4. ^ "Limitation Act 1980". Legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 2014-04-17.
  5. ^ "Magistrates' Courts Act 1980". Legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 2014-04-17.
  6. ^ "Should Britain have a Statute of Limitations on sex crimes?". Theopinionsite.org. 2011-03-19. Retrieved 2014-04-17.
  7. ^ Section 1 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988
  8. ^ Section 176 of the Representation of the People Act 1986